2018 Top 100 For-Hire Carriers: Acquisitions, Growth Boost Rankings

UPS tractor-trailer
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

There were big gains all around for the nation’s largest for-hire carriers, some driven by acquisitions and some by expansion in response to vigorous growth in demand for freight hauling.

UPS Inc. maintained its hold on the top position of the 2018 Transport Topics Top 100 For-Hire Carriers list, holding off, at least for another year, a challenge from its primary rival FedEx Corp., based on a comparison of revenue for the 2017 calendar year for UPS and for the 12 months ended Feb. 28, 2018, for FedEx, which operates on a fiscal year ending on May 30.

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Also asserting itself at No. 5 is Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings, a high-profile combination of two of the nation’s most prominent truckload carriers, Swift Transportation, which ranked No. 7 a year ago, and Knight Transportation, which ranked No. 30. Both companies are based in Phoenix and the combined enterprise moved ahead of YRC Worldwide and Schneider on the list.


The combined Knight and Swift operations, Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings, climbs the list to No. 5. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Acquisitions fueled big moves in the rankings for several companies, including Daseke Inc., which climbed to No. 29 this year from No. 42 a year ago. The Dallas-based holding company, which began buying up flatbed/heavy specialized carriers in 2009, continued its aggressive consolidation strategy in 2017 with the addition of Steelman Transportation, Roadmaster Group and Moore Freight Service. With revenue topping $1.3 billion, Daseke now ranks second only to Landstar System (No.10 overall) as the largest carrier in the flatbed/heavy specialized sector.

Another company making a big jump is Evans Network of Cos. The Pennsylvania-based company picked up Greatwide Truckload Management and added Whitacre Intermodal to its truckload and intermodal/drayage business in 2017, boosting annual revenue to nearly $900 million and moving up to No. 39 on the TT100 from No. 59 a year ago.

Making its first appearance on the for-hire TT100 at No. 67 is Eagle Express Lines/Hoovestol Inc. The company, which is based in South Holland, Ill., is a combination of two mail contractors, Eagle Express Lines and Hoovestol Inc., and includes revenue picked up from Beam Brothers Trucking, a Virginia-based contractor that shut down in 2017.

Eagle Express Lines/Hoovestol Inc. is one of two mail carriers on the TT100. The other is Salmon Cos., which ranks No. 84 this year, up from No. 94 a year ago.

Two other companies are listed for the first time. One is Two Men and a Truck Movers, a company based in Dallas that provides local moving and storage services through local franchise operators. It ranks No. 64 with systemwide revenue of $487.2 million. The other is LaserShip Inc., a Vienna, Va.-based provider of last-mile package delivery services. It ranks No. 77 with estimated revenue of $400 million.

Two companies are making return appearances to the TT100. They are Melton Truck Lines, a flatbed/heavy specialized carrier in Tulsa, Okla., at No. 92, and Acme Truck Line of Gretna, La., another flatbed/heavy specialized carrier with operations that are concentrated in the oil-field service industry, at No. 100.


Hornaday Transportation is one of Daseke's acquisitions. (Daseke/Flickr)

Data for most of the companies on the TT100 and sectors come directly from company management or from financial reports filed with government agencies in the United States, Canada and Mexico. In some cases, estimates are used to determine annual revenue. Data on carriers in Mexico is provided by Armstrong & Associates Inc., while supplemental data on U.S. carriers comes from S.J. Consulting Group, Modern Bulk Transporter magazine and Husch Blackwell.

One new element this year is a breakdown of trailers by type. In addition to seeing a number for total trailers under the equipment column, you will see the number of dry van, refrigerated, flatbed or tank trailers for that carrier. While not available for every carrier on the TT100, the information does give readers some additional perspective on a carrier’s freight-hauling capabilities.